Should I Ask for a Raise?

I’ve heard it said that there are two ways to create more flexibility in your budget – reduce spending or increase your income. Too often we focus on the subtraction side of the equation – what can I cut back on? I think for many of us that’s a fine place to start. But, have you really stopped to consider the other side of the equation – how would you increase your income? Particularly, how might you increase your income from your current employer?

I have to admit that in some ways asking for a raise feels like I’m going against my values. I know that I have more than enough and I try to make the best of what I have. I’ve lived on a whole lot less than I’m living on today. I tend to be content with whatever my employers have offered me. Why ask for more when so many others around the world are living on so much less? Maybe you feel this way, too. I invite you to turn the question around. Instead of asking for “a raise,” ask yourself: “am I being paid equitably?”

What would you do if you found out that you were being underpaid by your current employer? In my short career tenure this has happened to me twice. And, I’m guessing that it’s happened to you too whether you know it or not. I think for many of us we see the income coming into our bank account from our employer as a constant – something we should be grateful for and not question. That’s all well and good and until you realize that you’ve been underpaid.

Asking for a raise isn’t about squeezing another dime from your employer. It’s about earning fair compensation for the work you are doing. It’s about valuing your skills, your time, and the investment you are making in the  mission of your organization.

Still struggling? Instead of asking for a raise for yourself, think of it as an act of social justice for those who will come after you. How is asking for a raise also allowing you to lift up others? How might you use this raise to put your values into action by further investing in the causes, people, and places you care about?

Ready to ask for a raise? Here are a few tips.

1.     Do your research. Figure out how much you are worth. I think everyone should take this step whether they feel like they might be underpaid or not. It’s important to know what you should be paid – even if your employer can’t afford to pay you that right now. Start with a quick google search. There are countless resources out there to help you figure out how much you should be paid given your career and experience level.

Tip: Use glassdoor to see what the average base pay is for your role and see how salaries change by location and company. Have a more specialized role? Start with the titles of others who are in your field (or a similar one). Take your research to the next level using this guide from She Negotiates.

2.     Take a look at benefits, too. As you are researching your salary, be sure to also consider your benefits. Could you negotiate more vacation time? A larger employer contribution to your retirement account? In larger companies this may not be something that you can negotiate, but in smaller companies you may have some flexibility. In one of my previous jobs, I noticed I was being paid less than my predecessor but I was able to negotiate a 3% matching retirement contribution from my employer which was something this company had never done before. While it didn’t add up immediately to extra money in my pocket – it certainly helped me save toward a future goal.

Tip: If you can, talk with others in your field (or even at your office) about their salaries and benefits. Take a look at your employee handbook are there other benefits your employer offers you don’t have access to now that you might be able to negotiate in?

3.     Found a gap? It’s time to ask. I realize that asking for more from your employer can be really scary. For those of us who work for non-profits or other types of service organizations, you may feel guilty asking for more. But, remember this isn’t about being selfish. It’s about being equitably paid for your work. Think about the person who comes into your role after you. How would you want this person to be compensated for their gifts and skills? It excites me to know that the person who came after me at my previous employer received a retirement benefit they wouldn’t have received otherwise.

Tip: Need help working up the courage? Seek out a mentor who might be able to help you frame the conversation and even role play with you. Or, get coaching from Kathlyn Hart or She Negotiates.

Got your raise (or a bump in benefits)? Celebrate! Don’t forget to take a step back and ask yourself – how will I intentionally use this raise to fuel my values and empower others?

Didn’t get your raise? That’s ok. It’s important that you asked. Don’t forget to celebrate that brave moment. It’s also time to ask yourself what does this “no” from my employer mean? Was it a “no” forever or just a short period of time? If it was a short-lived “no” be sure to follow-up. If it was a long-term “no” is it time to move on? This might be a good time for you to survey your options outside of your current employer.